DPR award DPR
From left: DPR Director Brian Leahy presents the award to four retired pink bollworm program representatives - Jim Rudig and Pat Akers of CDFA, Bob Staten of USDA, and Bob Roberson of CDFA.

Reduced pesticide use is real reward

The decades-old pink bollworm eradication program has used sterile moth technology versus millions of pound of pesticides to nearly eradicate the cotton-boll munching, cotton fiber-destroying pink bollworm pest in western and southwestern cotton fields.

On Jan. 26, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) doled out recognition to six organizations for their progressive work to reduce pesticide use. Hold on – stop the press – don’t post – is this fake news or ‘alternative facts?’ It’s REAL news!

While consumers too often read online about how farmers are poisoning the world by using zillions of tons of pesticides on farm fields (excessiveness intended), there are many producers actually intentionally using less pesticide.

DPR recognized six California programs with awards for projects designed to manage pests using fewer pesticides. The projects include the Cherry Buckskin Project, Virginia Creeper Leafhopper Project, Riverside Unified School District IPM, San Luis Obispo County’s Project Apis m., San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, and the Pink Bollworm Program.

These projects incorporated integrated pest management to manage pests and other systems, including the release of parasitic insects and building a habitat for good bugs – natural predators.

During the award presentation, DPR Director Patrick Leahy noted, “Integrated pest management is an important tool in today’s society,” adding he was impressed with the creativity of the groups in solving pest problems without an overreliance on chemicals.

In fact, the decades old pink bollworm eradication program has used sterile moth technology (SIT) versus millions of pound of pesticides to nearly eradicate the cotton-boll munching, cotton fiber-destroying pink bollworm pests  in California, Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, and northern Mexico cotton fields.

The project includes sterilizing PBWs at the CDFA-USDA sterile moth facility at Phoenix and releasing them by airplane over local cotton fields. Mating efforts with native moths fail. Pilot efforts are underway to use SIT to reduce large Navel orangeworm pest populations in California pistachio and almond orchards.

Many folks deserve huge kudos for the development and implementation of the sterile moth program. In my opinion, several deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in part, for meritorious contributions to major public or private endeavors to keep Planet Earth clean. In my view, it’s a perfect fit.

Congratulations to all the groups honored by DPR. After all, success is all about people. And by the success of SIT, some of the greatest minds are indeed deeply rooted in agriculture.

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